(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

Chapter Twenty-two
ENGINEERING AND FAMINE RELIEF

TT really seems that a man can do much more for his country when
'^•he is serving on the land than at the capital. At the age of fifty-two,
Su Tungpo arrived in July 1089 in Hangchow to be the governor of
West Chekiang province and commander of the military district. His
brother had been promoted from vice-minister of the interior to
minister of the civil service, with the rank of a hanlin scholar; that
winter Tseyu was sent as the emperor's emissary to the Kitan tribes
/In Mongolia on a trip that lasted four months.

Su Tungpo plunged into his work. For a year and a half, Chin
Kuan's brother, who .came to stay with them, never saw Su open a
"5ook. Instead he took advantage of the favour of the Empress to ask
for special grants of money to carry through important measures of
reform. In the short space of one and a half years he put through
measures of public health and sanitation for the city, including a ckan
water system and a hospital, dredged the salt canals, reconstructed West
Lake, successfully stabilised the price of grain, and single-handedly and
passionately worked for famine relief against the colossal indifference
of officials at the court and in the neighbouring provinces.

The office of the governor was in the centre of Hangchow. But Su
Tungpo preferred to execute his official duties in more poetic surround-
ings. Often he worked in a picturesque house with thirteen rooms
in the Stone Buddha Court below the Kehling Hill. He would go
through the official documents either in the Cold Emerald Hall or the
Rain-Lent-Excitement Hall, which we remember was named from his
celebrated verse on West Lake, containing the line:

"Misty mountains lend excitement to the rain."

There, surrounded by tall bamboos and looking out on a clear stream,
he performed his duties.

Sometimes, however, he preferred to execute business still farther
away in the high mountains ten or fifteen miles from the city. Send-
ing his official retinue with flags and umbrellas to go on foot by the
Chientang Gate, he himself, accompanied by one or two old body-
guards, would take a boat from the Yungchin Gate and cross the lake
westwards, stopping for lunch at Pu-an Temple. Taking a few secre-
taries with him, he would go and sit at the Cold Spring Pavilion.
There amidst chatter and laughter he would go through the business
of the day, writing his official decisions "as fast as the wind**. After

263